Maputo, Monday 11 March 2013 - Dr Philippe Douste-Blazy, the Chair of UNITAID Executive Board, announces today in the presence of the Minister of Health, Dr Alexandre Manguele and other key partners, the roll-out of new innovative technologies to quickly and efficiently diagnose and monitor HIV and tuberculosis (TB) in Mozambique.
UNITAID, a global health initiative financed primarily by a small levy on air tickets, has provided these new investments which will be rolled out by the Clinton Health Access Initiative, Médecins Sans Frontières, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO)/Stop TB Partnership. Launched in 2006, UNITAID has already invested US$ 40 million in Mozambique allowing over 25,000 children to be provided with quality-assured, adapted HIV treatment, over 10 million malaria treatments to be distributed, and treatments provided for hard-to-treat multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB.
“For optimal treatment, diagnosis tools are essential,” said Dr Douste Blazy, who is the former French Foreign Minister. “These projects for new diagnostic machines will bring vital testing and monitoring to patients in the most rural settings, thus improving the quality of care.”
“The French government just announced that France’s levy on airline tickets has raised over one billion euros in only six years,” continued Dr Douste Blazy. “Most of these funds have been given to UNITAID, and travellers from France can be proud of the initiatives to bring health innovations to Mozambique, one of 94 countries with UNITAID-funded projects.”
The projects for HIV, being implemented by Clinton Health Access Initiative, Médecins Sans Frontières and UNICEF, will bring new technologies for point-of-care and decentralized diagnostics, adapted for use in low-tech settings. They will include tests to monitor patients’ immunity levels, to diagnose HIV in infants, and for viral load testing to determine when a patient needs to switch from first-line to second-line antiretrovirals. Since 2010, Mozambique has facilitated an advanced roll-out of UNITAID-funded HIV monitoring technology, which can provide results in 20 minutes and be used in smaller health facilities. With this new equipment, travel time for patients is reduced and quality of care improved, resulting in healthier patients. By mid-2013, more than 100 sites will be equipped.
For tuberculosis, UNITAID investments, working with WHO/Stop TB Partnership, will scale-up access in Mozambique of GeneXpert, a new, highly accurate, rapid diagnostic test.
It responds particularly well to needed improvements of TB diagnosis in HIV patients in the country. Twelve machines will be delivered to Mozambique to provide about 80,000 tests for patients, with waiting times for results of only two hours compared with up to two months for other MDR TB diagnosis methods. The Ministry of Health and partner NGOs Health Alliance International and Ajuda de Desenvolvimento de Povo para Povo (Support for Development of People by People) will continue and expand the nationwide roll-out of the new rapid TB test.
In 2012, UNITAID negotiated a 40% price reduction, with USAID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (from USD 17 to USD 10) for GeneXpert cartridges, with Mozambique and 144 other countries able to access the lower price.
Dr Philippe Douste-Blazy concluded by calling on more African countries to adopt UNITAID’s air ticket levy. Already six African countries contribute to UNITAID through the air ticket levy (Cameroon, Congo, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritius and Niger), contributing to international solidarity and financing the HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis response in their own countries.